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Democrats Need to “Dramatically Reinvent the Immigration Debate in Defense of Multiracial Democracy”

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Must-read Jean Guerrero LA Times Column About Need to Energize America’s Multiracial Majority and Present Counter-Vision to GOP’s Ugly Nativism 

Washington, DC – A timely Los Angeles Times column by Jean Guerrero, “Stop letting hate groups control the immigration debate,” counsels Democrats to lean in to the immigration and border debate to provide a “counter-narrative” to Republicans’ fearmongering and xenophobia. Guerrero also takes to task too many in the mainstream media who unquestionably adopt the GOP’s frame, while including in their coverage and sources designated hate groups from the anti-immigrant Tanton network organizations.

As America’s Voice lays out below: we are headed into a midterm cycle where Republicans are frothing to run hard on racial dog-whistles and xenophobic border messaging. In response, Democrats cannot afford to ignore the immigration debate or pretend that adopting Trump-light deterrence-only policies will be good politics or policy. 

Read the full Los Angeles Times column by Jean Guerrero here and find key excerpts below, followed by America’s Voice political resources and analysis:

“Either Democrats dramatically reinvent the immigration debate in defense of multiracial democracy, or they reinforce white paranoia and accelerate our descent into white nationalism. They can’t have it both ways.

…No matter what Biden does, Republicans will attack his policies as ‘open borders.’ No matter how few people make it to the U.S., Fox News will send cameras to conjure a border apocalypse. Neither Biden nor the Democrats can control that. What they can control is whether they take the bait by playing into and promoting anti-immigrant panic.

…Cowardice and a lack of imagination are to blame for Democrats’ failure to come up with a cohesive counter-narrative to Republicans’ fearmongering. But many in the national media are also at fault.

…Rather than pressing Biden about his promise to protect millions of undocumented essential workers and community members, many reporters are following the Fox News formula of fixating on the numbers at the border. This spring, Media Matters for America found that Fox News steadily drove the border-crisis narrative, which cable networks CNN and MSNBC then seemed to adopt. 

Top-tier news outlets also keep giving prominence to organizations that peddle anti-immigrant views, including those classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies. Media Matters for America said it found that since January 2019, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Associated Press published 203 articles that cited those groups or the ideologically aligned NumbersUSA, often without “sufficient context” about their backgrounds. Those groups were created or nurtured by John Tanton, a notorious white nationalist who promoted a race-based opposition to immigration.

…Republicans understand that whoever controls the narrative controls the agenda. On that, they have benefited enormously from media outlets actively normalizing anti-immigrant hysteria.”

According to Zachary Mueller, Digital Communications Manager at America’s Voice:

“There’s no doubt that Republicans will again deploy racist dog whistles in the midterms, trying to stoke fear about the so-called ‘Biden border crisis’ at odds with the Biden administration’s actual record, which – disturbingly – has been trending in a deterrence-only direction. Meanwhile, as Jean Guerrero pointed out, too many in the media are echoing GOP talking points, which come directly from the anti-immigrant progeny of white nationalist John Tanton.

Instead of running from Republicans’ misleading and destructive vision, Democrats need to deploy a strong counter-narrative. They need to call out Republicans’ divide-and-distract strategy, connect it to the GOP drive to undermine our democracy – while lining the pockets of their donors – and advocate for sharply contrasting and popular solutions when it comes to immigration, the border and who we can be as Americans. 

The multiracial electorate that gave Democrats their majorities rejected Republicans’ racist dog-whistles and nativism in 2020, just as they did in the 2018 midterms and in off-year elections throughout the Trump era. But in order to keep this electorate energized and build toward that American promise of freedom, justice and equality, Democrats have to fight for their values, draw contrasts, and present a counter-vision to Republicans’ endless fear-mongering and racism.” 

Check out the America’s Voice Ad Tracking Project for the latest examples of Republicans’ anti-immigrant fearmongering and politicization of the border. 

It’s clear that Republicans have been planning to make xenophobic fearmongering around immigration and the border a focal point of their anti-Biden messaging and their midterm election plans since even before Biden’s inauguration. They’ve followed through:

  • Facebook ad statistics on Republicans’ border scare tactics: AV analysis found 3,303 Facebook ads, costing an estimated $1.8 million, that used the “border crisis” dog-whistle between March and December 2021 
  • The NRSC is out with a new ad that is a prime example of xenophobic dog whistling. It begins “Democrats are destroying America.” Like an NRCC ad released in early November, this new ad shows Black people from the Haitian asylum seeker encampment in Del Rio, TX, with audio that claims “at least 70 thousand illegal immigrants have been released into the United States” (a claim, of course, at direct odds with the Biden administration’s deportations of Haitians).